"War now not only occurs more rarely . . . [but is] an occasional excess, from which recovery is easy."
Alfred Thayer Mahan (1840-1914)
Columbia College 1854-18567
By arguing that sea power—the strength of a nation’s navy—was the key to strong foreign policy, Alfred Thayer Mahan shaped American military planning and helped prompt a worldwide naval race in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Mahan studied at Columbia for two years beginning in 1854—he was a member of the Philolexian Society, the campus literary club established in 1802—before decamping for Annapolis, from which he graduated in 1859. A longtime naval officer who cut his teeth on the Union side in the Civil War, Mahan eventually lectured on history and strategy at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. It was there, inspired in part by a history of Rome, that he began developing his theories; in 1890 he turned his lecture notes into The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783.